LaCrosse high school always seems to be filled with good athletes, but sometimes at this time of the season head coach Rob Holopirek would be the first to admit, they look more like football players running around on the court than basketball players. And with another deep run into the football playoffs this season, it was definitely on his mind.
“This year the chemistry has been really good,” said Holopirek. “I was worried with the lack of practices coming into it, but they seem to gel real well together.”
Well enough to bring a 4-1 record and a number seven ranking in Class 1A Division I into what is the biggest before Christmas in Rush County, maybe the biggest of the season. The Leopards playing host to their rivals from 15 miles down the road in Otis-Bison.
“I just love playing them because there’s a bunch of fans, the stands are always packed,” said Taylor Yohe. “It’s always nice and loud in here.”
The two teams met three times last season with LaCrosse taking two of the three meetings. But this year’s clash had a new wrinkle. Otis-Bison has a new head coach. Erin Patrick makes the move from Hutch Central Christian where he coached the girls to multiple state tournament appearances and he brought his 6’6” son Kyle with him.
“He’s hard to guard,” Holopirek said of Kyle Patrick. “I thought we guarded him well at times and he still scored the ball.”
Which seems like a bit of an accomplishment in a game were neither team shot the ball very well, especially in the first half. It took nearly four minutes before Patrick hit the first basket of the night, a long three from about a foot beyond the arc. Otis-Bison clung to a one point lead after one quarter.
LaCrosse went on a 10-0 run that started with the final bucket of the first and spread into second quarter. Patrick would strike again before the half, with another long three at the buzzer, so the Leopard lead was just two at the half.
“We didn’t shot real well the first half, but the kids played really hard,” said Holopirek. “The defense I thought was excellent.”
Sparked by Yohe, the Leopards would pretty much own the second half. Growing the lead to eight points after three quarters and setting on a 43-32 victory.
“We just decided if we can’t hit the outside shots, we’re just going to have to attack more,” said Yohe. “We were hoping to get some steals, maybe some transition buckets and that is exactly what we did.”
The Leopards take a 5-1 record into the break. They will open up the new year at home versus Western Plains on January 7th.
Otis Bison falls to 4-2. The Cougars will open up 2014 January 10th at Victoria.